COVID-19 Misinformation

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When it comes to many dramatic events, a common response that inevitably bubbles up consists of both conspiracy theories and also a great deal misinformation. COVID-19 has seen both in abundance.

Today I’d like to tightly focus down on several rather important bits of misinformation that are being circulated as “truth” by sincere well-meaning people.

There is a great deal more in circulation concerning COVID-19 that that vast majority of people will immediately work out is pure BS. For example, the claim that 5G causes COVID-19 or the claim that the COVID-19 vaccines contain stuff designed to enable “them” to control you. Yes, some are daft enough to ingest such claims, but the vast majority don’t. There are however a couple of claims that will give a lot of people pause and so I’ve focused down on these because understanding what is really true about these does matter.

Here are three popular claims …

  • Masks don’t work
  • Lockdowns are pointless
  • Herd Immunity is the best solution

Let’s deal with each in turn.

Masks Really do work

Please do not take my word on this, but instead ask yourself this – What do the subject matter experts advise, and how do they know that?

The scientific journal Nature covered it in detail in Oct 2020 …

Face masks: what the data say

The science supports that face coverings are saving lives during the coronavirus pandemic

… To be clear, the science supports using masks, with recent studies suggesting that they could save lives in different ways: research shows that they cut down the chances of both transmitting and catching the coronavirus, and some studies hint that masks might reduce the severity of infection if people do contract the disease….

Via the link you can read all the detail.

If you still don’t believe it, then you should pause and consider that your bet on your doubt being correct is your health and your life. You need not doubt. This is because the scientific evidence is clear, masks really do work.

To put this another way, surgeons wear a mask when they operate on you because the effectiveness of a face mask to prevent infection has been well understood for rather a long time.

Lockdowns really do work

Majid Nawaz is taking this stance via LBC ..

.. and also via his twitter account …

I know Majid; I like Majid; I even have a picture of myself with him, but on this he is wrong.

Truth matters. He very obviously and with deep sincerity believes what he is saying, but he is still wrong.

He is propagating very dangerous misinformation that will cost lives.

Listen to people who are subject matter experts, not non-experts such as Maajid when it comes to an issue such as this. Understand what the scientific consensus is. Yes, Dr John Lee has a different view, yes he is a doctor. What he is not is an Epidemiologist, yet that is what he is spouting an opinion on.

Maajid quotes Dr Lee’s Daily Mail article, and that is turn claims the Lancet backs his position, but no links are provided to verify that. If you check the Lancet, then you will find article after article fully supporting Lockdowns.

The Lancet explains the context within which Lockdowns should be deployed (in Oct 2020) …

In the initial phase of the pandemic, many countries instituted lockdowns (general population restrictions, including orders to stay at home and work from home) to slow the rapid spread of the virus. This was essential to reduce mortality,67 prevent health-care services from being overwhelmed, and buy time to set up pandemic response systems to suppress transmission following lockdown. Although lockdowns have been disruptive, substantially affecting mental and physical health, and harming the economy, these effects have often been worse in countries that were not able to use the time during and after lockdown to establish effective pandemic control systems. In the absence of adequate provisions to manage the pandemic and its societal impacts, these countries have faced continuing restrictions.

In essence, if you don’t lockdown then it very quickly runs rampant and completely overwhelms public healthcare services to such an extent that they can’t cope. People then die who would normally survive if they had access to healthcare.

Herd immunity is not a solution

Let’s once again turn to The Lancet …

The arrival of a second wave and the realisation of the challenges ahead has led to renewed interest in a so-called herd immunity approach, which suggests allowing a large uncontrolled outbreak in the low-risk population while protecting the vulnerable. Proponents suggest this would lead to the development of infection-acquired population immunity in the low-risk population, which will eventually protect the vulnerable.

This is a dangerous fallacy unsupported by scientific evidence.

Any pandemic management strategy relying upon immunity from natural infections for COVID-19 is flawed. Uncontrolled transmission in younger people risks significant morbidity3 and mortality across the whole population. In addition to the human cost, this would impact the workforce as a whole and overwhelm the ability of health-care systems to provide acute and routine care. Furthermore, there is no evidence for lasting protective immunity to SARS-CoV-2 following natural infection,4 and the endemic transmission that would be the consequence of waning immunity would present a risk to vulnerable populations for the indefinite future. Such a strategy would not end the COVID-19 pandemic but result in recurrent epidemics, as was the case with numerous infectious diseases before the advent of vaccination. It would also place an unacceptable burden on the economy and health-care workers, many of whom have died from COVID-19 or experienced trauma as a result of having to practise disaster medicine. Additionally, we still do not understand who might suffer from long COVID.3 Defining who is vulnerable is complex, but even if we consider those at risk of severe illness, the proportion of vulnerable people constitute as much as 30% of the population in some regions.8 Prolonged isolation of large swathes of the population is practically impossible and highly unethical. Empirical evidence from many countries shows that it is not feasible to restrict uncontrolled outbreaks to particular sections of society. 

You will hear numbers touted, for example it is only this tiny number of nn people under 60 who die, therefore let it rip through the population and kill off the old and the weak while the rest of us survive and gain immunity.

Beyond the rather obvious ethics failure within such thinking something else is being forgotten. Many who get COVID-19 and survive end up with with serious long-term health issues. Their quality of life is greatly reduced.

Again, don’t take my word on this. Let’s turn to the CDC for this specific insight …

The most commonly reported long-term symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Joint pain
  • Chest pain

Other reported long-term symptoms include:

  • Difficulty with thinking and concentration (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
  • Depression
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Intermittent fever
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)

More serious long-term complications appear to be less common but have been reported. These have been noted to affect different organ systems in the body. These include:

  • Cardiovascular: inflammation of the heart muscle
  • Respiratory: lung function abnormalities
  • Renal: acute kidney injury
  • Dermatologic: rash, hair loss
  • Neurological: smell and taste problems, sleep issues, difficulty with concentration, memory problems
  • Psychiatric: depression, anxiety, changes in mood

In other words, if you let it run rampant with the thought that the population will gain herd immunity and so save the economy, then be aware that you will devastate the economy because you will impact the health of vast numbers of people and then possibly discover that you did it all for nothing because the natural immunity does not last very long.

Bottom Line

Listen to the subject matter experts and understand what the scientific consensus is.

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